June 29, 2013
Every Fairy Tale Has Its Trolls
I don't generally write about writing. It feels weirdly meta. Like making a movie about being in a movie about making a movie.
But I feel compelled to today.
You may remember a few months ago when I wrote a little letter to all the imperfect parents of the world.
I was pretty pleased with it when it was finished, and I went ahead and hit publish with it as it was. There were typos, a few messed up chunks of grammar, and an odd collection of pictures of me being less than perfect (or at least not normal) with my kids.
And then the Huffington Post came calling, and they picked it up. And that was amazing. Hundreds of comments on the HuffPo page, mostly full of compassion and support.
And then there were some radio hosts, off in Canada and Minnesota, and they read the letter on the air. and that was incredible.
And then things settled back down again, like they do.
I'd had the experience of writing something that went the tiniest bit viral before. It 's since dropped down in my all-time most popular posts, but it means the world to me. It was about taking my daughters to an anti-rape protest. And I highly recommend it, so long as you've got a box of kleenex handy. As teary eyed as I get any time I read anything even the slightest bit sentimental, that's the one that always has me dissolving into a pile of all the feelings. Shakesville picked it up, and suddenly I was getting more blog traffic than I'd ever imagined, all from people who wanted to share their stories with me, as well.
But here's the thing- the two experiences of going viral were are far from each other as you can imagine.
That first post that spread its wings and flew out into the internet- it was so intensely personal that I think it could not be separated from its author, me. Every single link to it was accredited, every person connected the author and the words.
But the second post? That was intended to be universal. To be something that every mom having a bad day, that every parent who isn't everything they'd hoped, could relate with. I wanted people to read "Dear Less-Than-Perfect Mom," and to know that, yes, I was talking to them. And no, I wasn't judging.
I've had that day. So many days. The day where I'm glassy eyed and snapping at my kids in the grocery store, and the thing is that people are judging and they just don't know. They don't know what day I've had, what week I've had, what life I've had. They click their tongues because I could really stand to calm down, but they don't know that I spent a whole sleepless night over a strange mole, or that my morning was spent scrubbing crayon off the floor, or that I'd spent half my day on the phone with a friend who's marriage was falling apart.
They don't know, and yet, they judge. And we all do it- we all see the less-than-perfect mom, and all we get is a snapshot. A tiny moment, where they might be just as bad as we think they are. But that's not a whole picture, it's not a whole story.
And so I wrote a letter to every parent, because we all have craptastic days where we want to crawl under a rock.
And people connected to it. They read it, and they felt it.
And then some of them took it, took my name off of it and put their own name onto it, and put it back into the world.
And the thing is, that's not okay. But it's hard to talk about why that's not okay. It's hard to say to somebody, "Hey, I know you're probably not at your very best right now, but can you please take your name off the thing I wrote about how you're not at your very best right now?"
As it turns out, I have an army. An army of friends and strangers and other bloggers who felt that I was talking to them, that for some strange reason I had the authority to forgive them for their bad days, and let them go on with trying to be the best they can be. And they took to the internet and started trying to track down every single plagiarizer and put an end to it.
For that, I am humbled beyond words.
I do want the credit. I want the credit because, well, I'm a writer. It's what I do. It's what I've always done. And yes, I am working on a book. And yes, I do want people to buy it. So I would LOVE if every time they saw, "Dear Less-Than-Perfect Mom," they said to themselves, Hey! That's Lea! I can't wait to buy her book!
But it's an impossible task. There's so little that we can do to stop this, but taking down the blog.
And just to be clear, I am not taking down this blog.
I love this blog. Not because it's filled with pretty things, or because it's a log of my early years as a mother, but because it's filled with you... my lovely readers.
The strangers and friends who stand in the shadows of the internet and offer words of support and encouragement and love.
Some days, this blog is the thing that drags me out of my own head and gives me the strength to change another diaper. I come back and I read through the comments of people saying, "Yup, I've been there," and "I love you!" and "Thank you..." and then I can go back to reading "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" for the fortieth time in a row.
So thank you all. For everything.